Enright also packs her book and her characters full of fascinating details. As Portia tells her friend Jody, Julian has "about a hundred thousand freckles on his face, all sizes, and the same color as his hair. He says it's the influence of the carrot on his appearance; he says that when he was a little kid, carrots were the only vegetable he'd eat, and he ate them every day for every meal except breakfast. So he turned orange." Julian also knows everything. He is good at sports but his passion is Nature, and his room is filled with the specimens to prove it. Portia, a very adventurous sort herself, is Julian's partner as they explore the land around the new home that Julian's family has moved into. When they get lost one day, on the run from mosquitoes the "size of helicopters" they climb up a "little hulk" and, gazing over the tops of a sea of reeds, see "a row of wrecked old houses." The surprise of this unexpected sight is followed by the shock of a radio advertisement loudly proclaiming, "Why suffer any longer from acid indigestion? Go to your local drugstore, now, today, and ask for a box of Pepso-Tabs, the wonder mint, only forty-nine cents the box." Of course they need to investigate further.
Gone Away Lake ends with the Portia and Foster's parents coming to Creston, visiting Gone-Away Lake and deciding to buy Villa Caprice and turn it into their summer home. Villa Caprice was the home of Mrs Brace-Gideon, the imposing, extremely wealthy, matron of the lake who had her grand manor set back from the rest of the homes. She also had it locked up completely, inside and out, at the end of each summer which resulted in it being the best preserved home on the lake. When she perished in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 with no living heirs, ownership of her home reverted to the state. Return to Gone-Away Lake is taken up, mostly, with exploring and restoring Villa Caprice over the course of the next summer and, while there isn't the initial excitement of discovery that fueled Gone Away Lake, Uncle Pin and Aunt Min still have a few more fantastic stories to share about childhood summers on the lake, including one about Mrs Brace-Gideon confronting a burglar trying to crack her safe one dark night. This story leads Julian on a hunt throughout the house to find the safe, especially after he discovers the combination to the safe hidden in a suit of armor - Mrs Brace-Gideon's over-the-top decorating taste, as well as personal style, is vey entertaining. By the end of the book and the summer, Mr Blake has decided to quit his job in Albany and work with Uncle Jake at his newspaper while also writing his novel on the side and the children are overjoyed. This career change, or at least the many improvements on Villa Caprice, which gets a very nice new name at the end of the book, are, in part funded through the many antiques, from furniture to jewlery, the Blakes find hidden throughout the house.
The pace of Return to Gone-Away Lake is a bit slower, the discoveries a bit less dramatic, but still absolutely wonderful to spend more time with Pindar and Minnehaha and the magic of Gone-Away Lake. As an adult, I have to admit to feeling a bit wistful (and jealous) of the adults in the story. Uncle Jake runs a newspaper, Aunt Hilda bakes and makes incredible dinners. The Blakes vacation in Europe while their kids spend the summer with their cousin. The kids can roam free, exploring the countryside safely, talking to strangers, making forts and clubhouses. And, best of all, Mr Blake can leave his job in the city to write a novel!! Ah, those were the days...